Career checklist: Bracing for outsourcing

Many IT workers today have reason to believe their jobs could be outsourced. For example, you may be in tech support and part of the team may be in India; you may have reason to believe it’s only a matter of time before your company decides to move your job as well. Or, your company may be acquiring a foreign business whose expertise overlaps with your own, and you may think the business will lay off redundant workers in the process.

Preparing yourself to deal with the impact of outsourcing on your job is not much different from what IT personnel should be doing in general to advance their careers and ensure they will continue to be valuable to their employers, according to Jay Colan, a New York-based vice-president and consultant with global career services firm Lee Hecht Harrison.

“Learn more about the business side of your company; this is especially true of people who work in technology, because they often work in cost centres,” Colan says. Cost-centre workers may be first to have their jobs outsourced in expense-reduction efforts. If you understand how your job improves efficiency and affects the bottom line, chances are you’ll be better able to understand what skills you need to maintain, and improve, to be considered a valuable asset — that is, someone who may be offered another job in the company rather than being terminated outright.

Communication skills are especially important, because jobs likely to stay in North America are those that require language and relationship-building talent.

Here are some tips that Colan passes along:

– Learn to put your work in context of the overall business: When discussing your work, whether in an interview situation or when networking in general, couch it in terms of how it helps the company. You can mention, for example, that it now takes you half the time to do a certain task than it did a year ago, freeing yourself up for other jobs; this could be seen as helping productivity.

– Volunteer for important projects: Identify strategically important projects your company is planning, and if you can, volunteer to be on one. Some new projects are tied to new directions in which your company is headed, and gaining experience on such projects helps you learn and maintain skills that the company is likely to find valuable.

– Stay flexible, and show off your flexibility: Whenever you can, take the opportunity to show off how flexible you can be. Employees who appear to be able to handle change well, who seem eager to learn new skills and tackle new projects with enthusiasm, are more likely to be offered new jobs when their old jobs are being outsourced.

-Take advantage of vendor seminars: Vendors often give seminars about new products they are rolling out. Attending such events affords an opportunity to get to know vendors personally and learn their tech-product road maps, which will help in gauging the types of skills needed in the future. To find seminars go to the vendor sites and click on “events.”

– Network, network, network: Keep in touch with former colleagues and company alumni, and attend professional association meetings and conferences. This will allow you to keep in touch with trends in your industry, and provide you with an ever-expanding informal support network. A number of Web sites have been established by former employees of companies. Do a Google search with keywords “alumni” and the name of your company. “It’s a good way to find out what other companies are receptive to people from your company,” Colan says.

– Communication skills: The types of jobs that are most likely going to stay in North America are ones that will require communication skills. Customer-facing jobs in services, sales jobs, project management work, are all more difficult to outsource offshore than other types of work. Take any opportunities to brush up on communication skills, such as giving presentations, or acting as liaison among project teams.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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